When I was a teenager I had my wisdom teeth removed. What I remember about the experience wasn’t the procedure, though, but going out to dinner at Cafe Melange, then called Deli de Pasta, while I was recuperating. I had the manicotti — easy to eat after the minor torture my mouth endured. The manicotti was a savory reward, and about that time in the early ‘90s my family began frequenting the Front Street restaurant.
Over the years, as menu items and owners have come and gone, we’ve made Cafe Melange our place for birthdays, anniversaries or special evenings. It was where my husband first went to dinner with my parents (hilarity ensued). The night before I was scheduled to deliver my son, we treated ourselves to dinner and dessert there. And while I recovered from a cesarean section later in the week, the lovely owner at the time delivered two meals to our hospital room. (I don’t remember what we ate. But my husband says we had a vegetarian lasagne, the dijon tenderloin and a bottle of pinot noir). It was a little like Cheers: We became such regulars that the staff usually sat down and chatted with us for a while. But a growing family and careers over the last few years have made it difficult to enjoy it since Alice Mathews, its current owner, bought the tiny eatery in 2010.
Recently I ran across Cafe Melange’s new website (yakimacafemelange.com), and I thought it was high time for a visit.
The interior is as bright as ever, and I find the tables facing the front bay windows are the most pleasant, with their view of the cobblestone street. I wasn’t so pleased to see that the dijon tenderloin, hands-down my favorite dish on the menu, is no longer being offered. But sometimes one must find new favorites.
On our first lunch trip I ordered the crab wonton pizza ($12), which is topped with its title ingredients plus sweet chili cream cheese and green onions. I also ordered a green salad ($3).
While the pizza is a little on the small side, adding the salad made a filling lunch. What made the pizza delicious is what makes every pizza delicious: the toppings. I’ve said before that I’m a pushover for the sweet and savory combination, and the soft crab, rich cream cheese, sweet chili sauce and sharp green onions balanced each other well. Crunchy wontons added some texture that was missing in the pizza crust (during our next visit my husband’s pizza was perfectly crispy). The salad is probably my favorite in Yakima, all because of Cafe Melange’s popular house dressing: creamy Italian. Smooth and cheesy with just a little bit of bite, the dressing always takes me back to the first time I ate at this little bistro.
On our next visit I ordered the gorgonzola stuffed cheeseburger ($12) with grilled onions. Oh, my. Sweet, tangy and delectable. Paired with that dynamite salad, which is included with the burger, it was a bit too much for a mid-day meal. Which made adding the “half and half” appetizer ($11) of focaccia bread, goat cheese, roasted garlic, red peppers and two tapenades completely over the top.
But this time we’ll be back sooner rather than later. I’ve got to find my new favorite, and searching is half the fun.